After what feels like years of speculation, Amazon finally unveiled its first smartphone on Wednesday.
The Amazon Fire Phone is an interesting beast. From one angle it clearly follows the blueprint set forth by the Amazon Kindle Fire. On the other, it contains some innovative features we simply haven’t seen in any mass-market device before.
So let’s whittle things down to the bare essentials. Here’s what you need to know about the Amazon Fire Phone.
Internal specs are very 2013
For all its innovative features (more on which later), the Amazon Fire Phone is built upon a technological foundation that will be familiar to any Android fan circa October 2013.
More than decent, then, but hardly cutting edge.
Display is bright but not sharp
If the Amazon Fire Phone’s internals are 2013, than its display is more 2012. The phone’s 4.7-inch 720p screen evokes memories of the HTC One X and the Google Nexus 4 rather than their more advanced successors.
With high-end Android phones currently sporting 1080p displays and moving on to QHD resolutions, this might look like a bit of an oversight on Amazon’s part.
Still, the Fire Phone’s screen is by no means a dud. It uses an IPS panel, for one thing, which means that colours should be clear and viewing angles should be exemplary. That last point actually feeds into the Fire Phone’s headline feature, which we’ll discuss in a bit.
In addition, Amazon reckons that its phone’s display is the brightest ever, and has included a circular polariser to help boost outdoors viewing quality – a perennial issue for smartphones.
Camera is both clever and accomplished
Amazon looks like it’s put some serious thought into the Fire Phone’s camera. At 13-megapixels, and with an f/2 aperture and optical image stabilisation, it promise to produce shots that are both clear and crisp.
But it does much more than that. The Fire Phone’s camera is key to its ability to quickly scan in objects and items and match them against Amazon listings and media files.
Speaking of which, Amazon appears keen to reverse the trend for stripping away physical hardware keys on modern smartphones – yep, it’s another rare case of a smartphone with a camera button.
Firefly treats everything as a hyperlink
Not only does it have a physical camera key (did we mention how stoked we are about that?), but it also doubles up as a means to quickly activate Firefly. That’s the system that we briefly outlined above, which enables the Fire Phone to scan in and recognise real world objects.
It will then take you to Amazon listings pertaining to these objects, making it the ideal shopping companion.
Firefly can also recognise text, so you can scan in phone numbers, email addresses, and physical addresses from printed material. Written web addresses, meanwhile, can act as links to open up the web page in the Fire Phone’s browser.
The system can also use the Fire Phone’s mic to recognise and identify music tracks and movie audio.
It could be the first decent 3D phone
If you don’t, that’s fine. They were smartphone evolutionary dead-ends from a time (back in 2011) when a lot of people thought that 3D was the future of entertainment.
Of course, while those crude glassless 3D efforts sank without a trace, Amazon’s Dynamic Perspective system promises to be a lot more subtle and refined.
It uses front-facing cameras and motion sensors to track movement and the position of your face, subtly adjusting what’s being displayed accordingly. You can reveal extra information or simply scroll within apps simply by tilting the phone.
Android, but not as we know it
Like the Amazon Kindle Fire range, the Fire Phone runs on Fire OS. This is a heavily modified version of Android, which is pretty much unrecognisable from Google’s operating system.
In fact, so different is it that you can’t even access the Google Play Store or Google’s own suite of apps. Instead, you have to rely on Amazon’s own Appstore, which has around 240,000 apps to its name.
It’s surprisingly expensive
You know how Amazon pushes out its Kindle Fire tablets at a ridiculously low price because it knows it will make its money on the extra shopping you’ll do? Yeah. The Fire Phone isn’t going to be like that.
In fact, we’d argue that the Fire Phone is pretty expensive for what its is. The phone is going to be available on a two year contract with a $199 up front charge.
It’s US-only (for now)
As that last snippet of information might have suggested, the Amazon Fire Phone has not been announced for the UK as yet. In fact, Amazon’s first smartphone is for US eyes only at this point.
It’ll launch over there on July 25. As for the UK? Well, Amazon has simply told us to “stay tuned.”
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